A Southern Summer Soundtrack


A great song can transport you to another place and time. It can remove you from your troubles, and sometimes even cure them outright. A great song can drown out the chaos surrounding us, and so music faces little competition as society's preferred mode of escapism. And yet, music is never quite as powerful as when it coincides with the here and now, offering rhythm and melody and rhyme to elevate our lives' everyday moments to the realm of the extraordinary. A stubborn backbeat, a timely lyric, a modulation coated in silky strings ... music can make all the difference, bestowing a heightened reality where what we feel takes precedence, like rose-colored glasses for our brains. Indeed, like many of our favorite films, our own lives would not live up to the hype without a carefully curated soundtrack.

This is especially true during the summer months when we have a little more freedom to indulge ourselves. Baseball games and barbecue. A six-pack of Dale's Pale Ale and a tube trip down the Broad River. An afternoon on the front porch with a tall glass of Tennessee Lemonade. The sun has a way of dulling our understanding of consequence, but this is for the best. Summer time, you see, isn't meant to be accounted for. Summer time is a libation — an offering sent up to the Gods of Flip-Flops and Slurpees, who delight in our frivolity. And so we must mosey through these summer months, stopping at roadside tourist traps and sacrificing our spare cash to crafty cornhole sharks and junk-store salesmen. We must gorge ourselves on crawdads and catfish. We must remember to inhale into our lungs the scent of pine floating on the summer breeze.

For these reasons, a playlist of summer songs cannot be rushed. A summertime playlist is a mid-tempo playlist. It's optimistic. It is major chords and 4/4 time and sundrenched harmony. It is twang, but also soul. Horns, but also fiddle, and always a little bit of swing. But mostly it is not rushed. It has nowhere in particular to be.

This collection of summer tunes includes descriptions of blue cloudless skies, green summer grass, and the all-seeing Ozark moon. Southern summer pastimes are accounted for, like feral-hog hunting and peach picking. There is celebration of Memphis' famous dry-rub pork ribs, and spicy cajun low country boils. And love. Because summer is never quite the same without a companion. Love brings the sunshine indoors, and makes the warmth of summer last through the night. Amen.

So here's to your summer: May it be lazy and inconsequential, full of sun rays bouncing off the water, and may each night your belly lie full of sweets and summer meats and all manner of alcohol. Take the road trips. Cast your line into the water. And maybe a few of these songs will work their way into your summer soundtrack.

— Jon Cole

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